Friday, August 19, 2022

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 137

Russia, wary of NATO’s eastward expansion, began a military campaign in Ukraine on February 24 after the Western-leaning Kiev government turned a deaf ear to Moscow’s calls for its neighbor to maintain its neutrality. In the middle of the mayhem, Moscow and Kiev are trying to hammer out a peaceful solution to the conflict. Follow the latest about the Russia-Ukraine conflict here:

Rescue efforts underway in Chasiv Yar apartment building

Rescue efforts are underway after Russian missiles destroyed a five-storey apartment building in the eastern Ukraine town of Chasiv Yar, killing at least 15 people.

Chasiv Yar is about 20km south-east of Kramatorsk, a city that is expected to be a major target for Russian forces moving west.

Pavlo Kyrylenko, the governor of the Donetsk oblast, stated the rocket struck on Saturday evening.

Five people were reportedly pulled from the rubble alive and the regional emergency service announced that 24 more people could still be trapped.


US sees Russia food blockage as factor in Sri Lanka

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said Russia’s restriction on Ukrainian grain exports may have contributed to recent turmoil in Sri Lanka triggered by severe shortages of food and fuel.

“We’re seeing the impact of this Russian aggression playing out everywhere,” Blinken told reporters in Bangkok.

Renewing a demand that he has made repeatedly, he called on Russia to let an estimated 20 million tonnes of grain leave Ukraine, which Moscow invaded in February.


UN: Ukraine forces share blame for nursing home deaths

A new UN report has found that Ukraine’s armed forces bear a large, and perhaps equal, share of the blame for what happened in a nursing home near Stara Krasnyanka, which is about 580km southeast of Kyiv.

A few days before the attack, Ukrainian soldiers took up positions inside the nursing home, effectively making the building a target.

The UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights announced, “A fire started and spread across the care house, while the fighting was ongoing”.

Dozens of elderly and disabled patients were trapped inside without water or electricity. At least 22 of the 71 patients survived, but the exact number killed remains unknown.


Death toll after strike on east Ukraine building hits 15: Rescuers

Rescuers have recovered 15 bodies after a Russian missile strike hit a residential building in Chasiv Yar town, eastern Ukraine, according to officials.

“During the rescue operation, 15 bodies were found at the scene and five people were pulled out of the rubble,” alive, the local branch of the Ukrainian emergency service said on Facebook, adding that rescuers were in contact with three people alive under the rubble.


Russia hits hangars storing US-made artillery weapons

Russian forces struck two Ukrainian army hangars storing US-produced M777 howitzers, a type of artillery weapon, according to Russian defence ministry.

The hangars are located near Kostantinovka in the Donetsk region, the defence ministry announced.


Canada plans to expand anti-Russian sanctions

Global Affairs Canada reported that it plans to expand its sanctions against Russia.

“The Honourable Melanie Joly, Minister of Foreign Affairs, today announced that Canada intends to impose further sanctions in relation to Russia,” according to the statement.

Ottawa will expand restrictions with regards to the gas, oil and manufacturing sectors.

On Friday, the Canadian authorities expanded sanctions against Russia, adding 29 private individuals and 15 organizations to the list, including Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia.


Russian gas cutoff most likely scenario: French FM

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire has said a cutoff of Russian gas shipments is currently the most likely scenario.

“Let’s prepare for a cut off Russian gas. Today it’s the most likely scenario,” he told a business and economics conference in southern France.


Russia intends to annex part or all of Kharkiv region: Think-tank

A US-based research institute is warning that the Russian government has broader territorial aims than capturing Ukraine’s Donbas and likely intends to annex part or all of the north-eastern Kharkiv region.

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) based its assessment on statements by Russia-backed authorities in the region claiming Kharkiv is an “inalienable part of Russian land”.

It said the Russia-backed authorities made the claim while unveiling a new flag for the region, which contained the Russian imperial double-headed eagle and symbols from the 18th century Kharkiv coat of arms.

It added, “The Kharkiv Oblast occupation government’s speed in establishing a civilian administration on July 6 and introducing martial law in occupied Kharkiv Oblast on July 8 further indicates that the Kremlin is aggressively pursuing the legitimization and consolidation of the Kharkiv Oblast occupation administration’s power to support this broader territorial aim.”


Ukrainian soldiers begin UK training programme

The United Kingdom has announced the start of a new military programme that aims to train up to 10,000 Ukrainian soldiers in the coming months.

In a statement, it said the first cohort of Ukrainian participants has now arrived in the UK.

“Using the world-class expertise of the British Army we will help Ukraine to rebuild its forces and scale-up its resistance as they defend their country’s sovereignty and their right to choose their own future,” stated British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, who visited the training programme this week.

The training will give volunteer recruits with little to no military experience the skills to be effective in front-line combat. Based on the UK’s basic soldier training, the course covers weapons handling, battlefield first aid, fieldcraft, patrol tactics and the Law of Armed Conflict.


Russian troops trying to advance towards Kharkiv: Report

Ukraine’s General Staff has said that “Ukrainian troops had repelled a Russian offensive towards the villages of Kochubeivka and Dementiivka north of Kharkiv,” the Kyiv Independent has reported.

“Ukrainian forces also routed a Russian reconnaissance group near the villages of Male Vesele and Petrivka in Kharkiv Oblast,” the General Staff added.


Germany secures long-term supplies of ammunition to Ukraine

The German government has secured long-term supplies of ammunition for the Gepard anti-aircraft systems promised to Ukraine, the Der Spiegel magazine has reported citing government sources.

The office of Chancellor Olaf Scholz, together with the Ministry of Defence, has found a manufacturer in Norway that can produce more ammunition for the anti-aricraft system, according to the report.

The additional ammunition from the Norwegian manufacturer is to be tested as early as next week at the Bundeswehr shooting range in Putlos in the Schleswig-Holstein state, Der Spiegel further reported.

The delivery of the Gepard anti-aircraft systems, which are to help Ukraine protect critical infrastructure, is to start in July.


US pledges Ukraine $368m in humanitarian aid

Washington has promised to provide further humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

“Today, I can announce the United States will provide nearly $368m in additional support, including food, safe drinking water, cash assistance, emergency health care, shelter, as well as support to coordination among humanitarian organisations that are doing so much of this critical work on the ground,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement after the G20 foreign ministers’ meeting in Bali.

So far, the US, as the main donor country, had pledged more than $1.28bn in humanitarian aid to Ukraine since Moscow began the war, he added.


Blinken asks Wang to stand up against Russia’s war in Ukraine

Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated he pressed his counterpart, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi, to oppose Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine when they met at the G-20 summit in Bali on Friday.

Blinken told reporters after meeting with Wang for five hours that remaining neutral in the conflict, as China has declared itself, is a difficult position to have because there is a “clear” aggressor and victim.

“There is a clear challenge not only to the lives and livelihoods of people in Ukraine, but there is a challenge to the international order that China and the United States as permanent members of the Security Council are supposed to uphold,” he said.

But Blinken also cast doubt on the claim that the Chinese government remained neutral on the conflict, arguing that it is amplifying Russian propaganda and has continued to support Russia in the United Nations.

“But even if you accept that as a premise, I don’t think that China is, in fact, engaging in way that suggests neutrality,” he added.

China was one of 24 countries to vote against a United Nations resolution in April that suspended Russia from the Human Rights Council following the start of the invasion.

Blinken said Chinese President Xi Jinping told President Joe Biden in a phone call last month that he stands by a partnership he made with Russian President Vladimir Putin in February. The two leaders affirmed a cordial relationship between their countries in announcing the agreement.

Blinken added he urged Wang that all countries need to stand up against Russia’s invasion, to demand that Russia allow other countries access to food supply from Ukraine and end the war.

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